What images pop up for you when you think of the word "Mother"?
If you fancy making an experiment of it, give yourself 60 seconds to make a note. I'd love it if you'd share them with me.
Many of us will find idealised notions of motherhood surfacing - nurturing, giving, unlimited patience, self-sacrifice, being superwoman, perfect endless love, self-denial,...
And while we probably all have flashes of some of these, what a handicap of a lie we have all been sold. That on some level motherhood involves trying to be perfect and denying the self. Talk about setting mothers up to feel like failures.
A self denied isn't capable of much good, let alone coping with immense daily challenges and frustrations on very little sleep.
You are the perfect mother for your little one, without having to be perfect.
Our children need our flaws and mistakes just as much as they need our love.
What kind of message do we give them if we believe we have to be perfect? That perfect is the goal? And whose version of perfect would this be?
Let's let them off the hook. Let's let them see that parents argue, that mothers lose their shit, that some days are just too long and some nights are just too short. That 12 wake ups in one night is completely and utterly unbearable, and that screaming, crying and feeling overwhelmed are not just for babies.
Of course let's enjoy the good days and all the wonderful moments, but no one needs to waste energy we don't have on the pretence that mothers were meant to be perfect.
My six year old likes to wail and shout and scream at the moment, and when I protest, she says "I'm showing my FEELINGS!" She's learned somewhere - I blame school - that showing ALL her feelings is a good thing. And inconvenient and noisy as it is, she's right. It is a good thing. Or at least, it's a damn sight better than the alternative, which is to learn the message that she must swallow down her feelings and keep them hidden from view until they make her sick. And I recently realised as I allow myself to let go of this perfection thing, that it's not either or - either her getting to have feelings, or me - so I joined in. She shouted, "I'm showing my FEELINGS!" and I shouted back "And I'm showing MINE!" and we both dissolved into giggles.
My wish for you this Mothering Sunday is that you will let yourself off the perfection hook if you are in any way attached to it.
My gift to you this Mothering Sunday is Songs My Mother Taught Me by Dvorak, from one of our recent B'Opera relaxed concerts. This beautiful song is about passing down "songs" to our children. Actual songs, or maybe a metaphor for all the important and precious things we'd like to teach them. Maybe not having to be perfect could be one of these.
Happy Mothers' Day.